Community Surveillance and Terrorism
in John Pearse, (Ed.), Investigating Terrorism: Current Political, Legal and Psychological Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 2015) Pp.214-238
Posted: 19 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 16, 2014
In October 2007, West Midlands Police embarked on Project Champion, a flawed and inaptly named operation to implement community surveillance in two areas of Birmingham where terrorist suspects were believed to reside. The police’s venture was halted by a storm of local protests before it could be fully realized. But its conception, implementation, implications and demise will supply a core case-study for this chapter, especially since the subsequent full official inquiry offers transparency and important insights. By comparison, most surveillance operations remain deliberately concealed on grounds of national security or public safety, without even the assurance of independent monitoring or post-operative notification. Only occasional glimpses emerge, usually engulfed by great controversy, such as the secret Zircon spy satellite programme, which was revealed by Duncan Campbell in 1987 and triggered a flurry of legal activity and the resignation of the director general of the BBC. Despite its notoriety, Project Champion is not a unique episode in counter-terrorism community surveillance. Therefore, in order to present a fuller picture of the counter-terrorism investigative technique of community surveillance, this chapter will initially provide an overview of other relevant community or mass surveillance tactics. This analysis will be contextualized within the analytical framework of ‘all risks’ policing, by which the risk of terrorism is perceived as so serious and so pervasive that police will treat anyone and everyone as a risk, whether or not any degree of specific suspicion exists. The chapter will also evaluate some of the dilemmas and consequences which flow from community surveillance in general and which prominently and damagingly arose in the particular scenario of Project Champion.
Keywords: Terrorism, surveillance, CCTV, policing
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K33, K19, K30, K33, K42, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation